The name McDermitt Caldera is probably unfamiliar. It belongs to an extinct volcano that last erupted approximately 16 million years ago. For lithium seekers, this is the greatest goldmine find in history.
In 2020, scientists published a shocking discovery that the caldera contains what could be the largest amount of lithium in the world, locked up in an unusual type of clay called illite.
Recent research has taken it a step further. In August, researchers reported that the illite in the southern portion of McDermitt Caldera, called Thacker Pass, contains about 1. 8% lithium, on average.
That’s almost double the lithium present in magnesium smectite, the main type of clay mined for lithium, today, Chemistry World reported.
This means a couple of things: McDermitt Caldera, located along the Nevada-Oregon border, could contain over 132 million tons of lithium — enough to meet global demand for decades, Jalopnik reported.
It also means the US, which only has one active lithium mine, may no longer have to rely on other countries for much of its lithium.
The US has an estimated 8 million metric tons of lithium embedded in its soil, ranking it in the top five countries worldwide with the most reserves, yet the country makes up just 1% of global lithium production, according to Minerals Make Life.
And demand for lithium is only expected to soar since it’s a key ingredient for rechargeable batteries used in electric vehicles.
This country will need more lithium in order to meet the demand for electric cars. McDermitt Caldera may be the answer.
” It could have a profound impact on the global dynamics of lithium, including price, supply security, and geopolitics, according to Anouk Borst of KU Leuven University in Belgium and Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren.
There is only one thing to note: the local Indigenous community claims that Thacker Pass, where they gather traditional medicines, food, and supplies needed for sacred ceremonies. The Guardian reported.
“There’s burial sites there. There’s medicines and roots there, there’s ecosystems – there is still life back there,” Gary McKinney of the Shoshone-Paiute Indigenous tribe local to Thacker Pass, told Al Jazeera. “And it’s all being sacrificed supposedly to fix the climate crisis.”
McKinney is part of the Indigenous group called People of Red Mountain that has opposed lithium mining at Thacker Pass.
But the federal court refused the opposition’s request for an injunction. In March, Lithium Americas reported that workers began drilling at the site and building infrastructure.
“The World Needs to Know That This Lithium Mining, And This Fast-Tracking Of Lithium Mining, Is A Continuement of Racism Against Paiutes and Shoshone People,” McKinney said on NPR.
Lithium extraction methods can lead to water pollution, land degradation, and potential groundwater contamination, per Earth.org. An estimated 79% of lithium reserves in the US are within 35 miles of Native American reservations, according to the MSCI Sustainability Institute.
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